COVID-19 Could Fundamentally Change America's Food Supply

Meat processors aren’t the only segment of the food economy that’s on the brink.

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This week, Tom Vilsack, who led the U.S. Department of Agriculture under President Barack Obama, warned that COVID-19 is spurring a "cascading series of events" that threaten the domestic food supply. 

Vilsack,  who now gets paid a lot to tout the perceived greatness of our nation's dairy exports, is right to sound the alarm—at least in the short term. Domestic food supply chains that were already bending due to the COVID-19 pandemic are now buckling. The giant Smithfield pork processing plant in Sioux City, South Dakota, which processes one out of every two-dozen or so pigs sold for food in this country, closed indefinitely last week after hundreds of its workers there tested positive for the coronavirus. Then, this week, Smithfield closed plants in Missouri and Wisconsin.

Smithfield competitors JBS and Tyson were also forced to close plants in other states when their workers tested positive for COVID-19.

While it's true that "plenty of other[ plants] are open," that may not be the case for long. Kenneth Sullivan, Smithfield's CEO, warned the wave of massive plant closures is "pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply."

Even at large plants that remain open, staffing shortages caused by COVID-19 are already shrinking the food supply. Farmers and processing plants have begun making difficult decisions to kill millions of healthy, perfectly edible animals instead of selling them for food—a practice known in the industry as "depopulation"—because of plant worker shortages caused by COVID-19 illnesses.

In a normal world, foreign-raised meat suppliers could help pick up the slack. But it's unrealistic to believe workers at foreign facilities aren't—or won't be—impacted by COVID-19 in the same way U.S. workers have been.

Meat processors aren't the only segment of the food economy that's on the brink. Food warehouses are seeing some workers fall sick and die. At least 30 grocery workers across the country have died from COVID-19, too. And immigration restrictions, as I explained in a column last month, could impact the planting and harvesting of many of our nation's crops. Those food supply chain issues could come home to roost during harvest season, when crops that are usually scheduled for picking aren't harvested because there are not only no workers to pick them, there were no workers available to plant them in the first place.

Given the depth, breadth, and pace of these pressures, the food system as we know it could unravel quickly. If our food system does implode—and I'm not predicting it will, just that it could—then what might be left in its place? Thankfully, even under worst-case scenarios that don't also involve nuclear war or an asteroid, it will be changed—perhaps temporarily, perhaps fundamentally—but should still contain sufficient food.

If meat supply-chain issues do turn into widespread shortages, and if those shortages last more than several months or so, changes to the American diet could be swift and dramatic. I expect frozen beef and pork and other protein sources—from seafood to legumes—will pick up a good deal of the slack. Poultry and bulk meat sales from small farmers and ranchers whose animals aren't processed in large facilities—already strong today—will also grow. Other niche foods, including plant-based meat substitutes, lab-cultured meats, and insect-based protein powders will likely gain in popularity, too. Home gardens and chicken coops, already popular to varying degrees, will become even more common. Fishing will, too. Hunting may reverse years of declining popularity. Foragers and roadkill connoisseurs will have their day in the sun, too.

In other words, our food system could soon resemble that of our grandparents and great grandparents—if only until the pandemic has eased. But there's also a chance some of these changes to our food system could be long-lasting.

If social distancing guidelines become the norm, for example, workers may no longer be allowed to stand elbow-to-elbow on the line at a meat-processing plant (some of which, such as the Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls, employ thousands of workers). Efforts to further increase mechanization and to remove both line workers and USDA inspectors from the cutting-room floor might follow. Cashier-less grocers—such as this Amazon Go store in Seattle—may become the norm (perhaps with wider aisles) because they don't require customers to stand in line or use a touch screen to pay for food, and they allow customers to easily use their own bags (rather than icky shopping carts).

What is government's role in this adaptive process? It should facilitate the recovery by cutting red tape and not creating new obstacles for businesses and consumers. That means dumping tariffs and removing recent immigration restrictions, and no more ordering farmers markets to close nor banning alcohol sales

But government also has an important, affirmative role to play. If testing everyone for COVID-19 (and related antibodies) is the best way for the nation to get back to work, the government should ensure tests, antibody treatments, vaccines, and other preventative and therapeutic treatments are provided first to essential workers—meaning not just doctors and first responders, but also grocery, farm, and plant laborers, many of whom have risked their lives to work through the pandemic.

No one we know of has any special immunity to COVID-19. That will change over time. But it may not change in time to protect the nation's food system from the upheavals that may follow. 

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  1. This is very nice & infomative information about Covid19.

    1. I really appreciated the link proving the author a liar when he said that the workers would literally “fall sick and die” – which gave me the impression they were dropping dead at work. That wasn’t the case. The “fall” was a fucking misleading way to put it if they go home from being sick on the job, later dying after being on a vent for a week.

      Where was all this coverage in 2018 when 64000 people In the US “fell sick” and died?

      1. Granite, it will be interesting to see how influenza mortality changes in the future, given people are now so much more aware of the basics: wash your hands, cover your sneezes, stay home when you are sick, stay away from sick people, do not touch your face.

        Hopefully mortality will go down – way down. A lot of those influenza deaths are preventable with better hygiene.

  2. Hunting may reverse years of declining popularity. Foragers and roadkill connoisseurs will have their day in the sun, too.

    What about “wet markets”?

    1. Wet markets are free markets. Just don’t locate them near dangerous government-run pathogen-extraction, cultivation and manufacturing facilities.

      1. And don’t stack your pangolin cages right on top of your bat cages.

        1. More importantly, don’t house ducks next to pigs. This is what causes most of the new flu strains. The main wild reservoir of flu is ducks. But ducks flu strains use duck receptors, which humans lack. Guess which animals have both human-like receptors and duck-like receptors? Pigs. So the virus jumps from duck to pig, where it mutates to be able to infect humans. And guess which country has millions of ducks living on top of millions of pigs? China.

    2. The time for wet markets may be coming to an end. Time to polish your dumpster diving skills.

      I remember my strolls through Mong Kok, a neighborhood in Kowloon, Hong Kong which I’ve heard was the most densely populated on the planet. Alongside the places selling cameras etc (this was a few years back) there were shops jam pack full of live chickens in cages stacked floor to ceiling. There were hundreds if not thousands of them. Chickens that is, though these shops were not all that uncommon, either. I suppose these shops are now a thing of the past, thanks to avian flu outbreaks. If a corona virus can change America’s unsanitary and wasteful food production and distribution habits, that’ll be a good thing.

      1. “If a corona virus can change America’s unsanitary and wasteful food production and distribution habits, that’ll be a good thing.”

        you know that’s completely irrelevant to the rest of your comment, right?

        1. I only meant to illustrate how a nation’s food supply is subject to change according to outside influences. It’s not set in stone.

        2. He misspelled China.

          1. Like it or not, the Chinese have a much greater tolerance to cruelty to animals, and unsanitary, crowded conditions for animals and people than do Americans. America will likely change its food production and distribution habits before the Chinese do. It’s a mistake to look to the Chinese for leadership on this issue.

            1. Uh, their unsanitary, crowded conditions literally caused this pandemic. If they seem to tolerate that, it’s because they don’t want to go to jail or worse.

              1. Especially since their government seems a lot more concerned with controlling messages to the international media than doing anything that will result in improved living conditions for people.

                1. The Chinese tolerance for cruelty to animals and unsanitary and crowded conditions has nothing to do with the government. No more so than their preference for chopsticks over knives and forks. These are cultural norms.

                  1. “Those dirty yellow bastards!” – shorter mtrueman

                    1. Well done
                      I was going to say exactly the same thing about 13 hours ago, then I thought why bother? It really needed to be said. The whole wet market consensus “science” hypothesis disinformation is a blatant appeal to racism and xenophobia.

                    2. Hygiene standards in China are not high. Did you know when flying in China, there is smoking throughout the whole plane, and passengers are asked if they want a seat in the spitting or no spitting section. When traveling there (on the ground) I found it best to eat in Muslim restaurants where the food was less likely to result in stomach upset. They don’t use rancid lard, for one. These restaurants can be identified by the Arabic writing on the sign along with the Chinese characters for ‘purity.’

        3. “completely irrelevant”

          Bullshit, too, but that’s his thing.

      2. America has extremely clean food production. In fact some may argue overly clean and overly regulated. What a fucking moronic statement. Slaughtering is never going to be a perfectly clean process but American packing houses are as clean as you can get. Our ranches and farms are also as clean as you can hope to get with livestock. Visit a pork or poultry farm some time and see the massive amount of biosecurity you have to go through to even visit the place, much less interact with the livestock.

        1. FFS.

          Smithfield is a fucking disgrace. JBS and Cargill here in CO aren’t much better. Smithfield gave their employees an extra hairnet to use as a face mask. They did nothing as the number of sick employees went from 98 a couple weeks ago to, currently, 634 with 2 deaths (and both numbers will go up). They deceived the city and CDC health last weekend about both their ‘health’ measures at the plant and their pressure on employees to work sick (eg they measured the temp of employees coming to work and then told the ones with fever to go thru a side door). And now that they closed it, the president of the company is playing victim (covid is everywhere v our facility is the biggest fucking cluster in the country by far) and issued veiled threats while their website has a bunch of PR BS about how much they are doing re covid19.

          I’m not remotely surprised that the libertarians for global cartels contingent is going to support this shit. And is, as always, oblivious to the massive brittleness of our modern food system. It’s almost like the only possible threat can be some new bug that only affects humans. There is no possibility at all of course of a new bug that only affects monoculture grass grains or livestock that mostly eat grass grains (even if they are not ruminants). No risk at all of that.

          1. Once again you blather on about shit you know nothing about. Maybe the packing houses could have better prepared their workers, but that has nothing to do with how clean the processing facilities are. Nor does it have anything to do with monoculture (BTW it isn’t only grass grains that are grown that way and farmers fucking rotate fields) in fact I doubt there are very many commercial crops not grown in monocultures. None I’ve ever encountered in 43 years of growing up and working in agriculture.

          2. Also, much of the brittleness is because we have over regulated the industry so bad that we have condensed the processing into the hands of a few corporations.

          3. And what is wrong with feeding grains to non ruminants? Actually, as a trained animal nutritionist it is safer to feed grains to non ruminants then to ruminants. The latter carries a higher risk of acidosis but if managed correctly has huge pay offs in reducing finishing costs and time to finishing. But you just are repeating empty slogans without a true understanding of what you are repeating.

          4. Also, your rant against grass grains (which isn’t even strictly true) demonstrates your lack of crop suitability. The reason grains are grown where they are is because that is what best suits the climate. They also grow pulse and oil seeds and dry beans on those acres, rotating with grains. You aren’t going to grow vegetables commercially on the great plains, unless you have access to irrigation. Growing lettuce in an area that averages 14 inches of precipitation a year, most of it falling between January to May, is not feasible, but growing lentils, field peas, wheat and corn is entirely feasible.

          5. Smithfield is a poster child for why socialism is gaining popularity. Next time you are wondering why people want socialism it is because of dump capitalist. Making money was more important than the workers health and now the plant will likely have to shutdown. Don’t tell me how bad socialism is and try to scare me, just smarten up the capitalist.

            1. Was it making money or because people need to eat and agriculture is considered essential? What a fucking stupid comment. Should all food processing centers close? Then how would you stupid socialist eat?

              1. The fact is we produce more food than we eat. Food waste is estimated at 40%. So the plant did not have to close it could merely have reduced production spread workers out farther, send sick workers home with benefits. What you see here is make money at any cost and the results is a shutdown plant. I am not a socialist, I am a capitalist frustrated by dumb short sited people who are failing capitalism for quick gains. Franklin and Teddy Roosevelt were born rich and died rich, but they were smart enough to see that capitalism had to be responsive to all people and not just people in their economic bracket.

                1. Most good waste is actually fresh fruits and vegetables that don’t get sold, not frozen meat or even fresh meat. Again you are speaking out your ass. Also, another good portion of food waste is post consumer, i.e. uneaten food, especially at restaurants. The fact is, is that you have never been in a packing house, so you have no expertise to say they could just spread out. As the story states, that isn’t exactly possible. Additionally, meat production especially hamburger is not meeting current demand. In fact, consumer hamburger demand is so high, and supply so low, that packing houses have begun grinding higher cuts of meat, (not highest like loin) like chuck or round that is usually used as roasts and lower cut steaks. When packing houses are grinding Chuck into low cost hamburger as opposed to a higher prices roast, there isn’t food going to waste. Nor is it evidence of greed. In fact, it is the opposite.

                2. And just an aside, a portion of that t wasted food is fed to livestock. It is a pretty substantial amount. Oh and I forgot how much of that waste is also bread and other baked goods especially fresh baked goods.

                  1. Your response agrees with my assertion that there is food waste suggesting there is room to reduce food production. I am suggesting that we reduce production to levels that can insure worker safety. Reduced production would seem a better alternative to what we are seeing which is plants closed entirely because of large infection rates among workers. Smart capitalism.

                    1. Except cutting slaughter will do nothing to the food waste I listed. Nice goal posts move.

          6. JBS stinks up all of “old town” Greeley and despite all the cows in the greater area and the processing plant you can’t buy a decent steak in any of the grocery stores. Go to Texas, go to HEB and you can score USDA Prime sirloin and strip for <$11.00 a lb.

            JBS packs prison and school lunch-fare proteins.

            1. JBS packs prison and school lunch-fare proteins.

              But you repeat yourself.

        2. “America has extremely clean food production. ”

          Wouldn’t you agree that all the meat that’s deemed clean is contaminated by anti-biotics?

          From wikipedia:
          HSBC also produced a report in October 2018 warning that the use of antibiotics in meat production could have “devastating” consequences for humans. It noted that many dairy and meat producers in Asia and the Americas had an economic incentive to continue high usage of antibiotics, particularly in crowded or unsanitary living conditions.[82]

          The WHO also sounded similar warnings around the same time.

          1. No I wouldn’t because all antibiotics have withdrawal times, before slaughter and all commercially slaughtered neat is tested for antibiotic residues. Additionally, unlike you seem to be, I am not afraid of antibiotic use in animal agriculture because I actually understand the science and pertinent laws, rules and regulations. I have a frigging master’s degree in Animal Science and am a livestock producer myself. I also am a agriculture extension agent and actually have to teach people about this subject.

            1. ” I have a frigging master’s degree in Animal Science ”

              It’s human science that the HSBC and the WHO are concerned about. Antibiotics usage in agriculture isn’t measured by the milligram, it’s measured by the tonne. They are concerned with the overuse of antibiotics and how farmers like yourself are incentivized to use them, foisting the risks onto the general public. Typical fuck you buddy attitude.

              1. There is no fucking incentive to use them. In fact it is the exact opposite. Take beef for instance. Break even is forecasted to be a dollar a pound this fall, but sales price is only forecasted to be around $1.20 a pound. That leaves very little room to spend the extra money to just give antibiotics except when they are absolutely needed. Again, you are grasping at straws.

                1. “That leaves very little room to spend the extra money to just give antibiotics except when they are absolutely needed. ”

                  HSBC and WHO reports disagree. They go so far as to claim: ” many dairy and meat producers in Asia and the Americas had an economic incentive to continue high usage of antibiotics, particularly in crowded or unsanitary living conditions.”

                  1. And they are wrong. I am telling you as a rancher and an extension agent that that is simply not true. We know how political the WHO is. Antibiotics are expensive, we don’t use them willy-nilly.

                    1. It’s not the willy nilly or gratuitous use of antibiotics the HSBC are concerned about. It’s their use as growth promoters.

                    2. Which is pretty much banned anymore by the veterinary feed directives. And was only common in poultry and pork before that. If you classify ionophores as antibiotics, and are worried about their use in cattle, don’t you don’t have a rumen and therefore don’t need to worry about their use. Besides they are not classical antibiotics but are used to suppress certain species of bacteria and promote other species.

              2. Also the misuse of antibiotics can result in fines and destruction of all product. Considering the low profit margin of livestock no one is risking losing a whole animal or a whole shipment of milk. At least no one who wants to stay in business.

                1. “Also the misuse of antibiotics can result in fines and destruction of all product.”

                  It’s the use of antibiotics that concern outfits like the WHO and HSBC. Remember the regulators who determine the difference between use and misuse are corrupt, incompetent, and not to be trusted.

                  1. You keep appealing to authority (and questionable ones at that). I telling you from first hand experience and education that they are wrong. Ranchers don’t use antbiotics unless they need to because they are expensive and cut into profit margins

                    1. The HSBC and WHO are not alone in their concern about the overuse of antibiotics.

                    2. But I keep pointing out antibiotics are not being overused in agriculture. But they are being overused in human medicine.

              3. And as for your crack about it being measured in tons that is a stupid fucking statement. When I give a dose of penicillin to one of my animals to combat an infection, I give it in milligrams. If you are talking industry wide, the amount of antibiotics used in human medicine is also measured in tons. What a fucking stupid statement.
                If you are talking about giving to a whole pen of animals, when you calculate the dose given per head it is still a doasge measured in milligrams. At no point does a single animal ever receive tons of antibiotics. That would kill any type of livestock.

                1. “When I give a dose of penicillin to one of my animals to combat an infection”

                  That’s not for growth promotion, but medical use. You must know the difference between the two.

                  According to wikipedia, animal antibiotic doses are around 13 million kgs per year, if memory serves. Administering such a large amount milligram by milligram would engage everyone on the planet full time.

                  1. That is a cumualative number. Of all antibiotics given to all livestock. Antibiotic use as growth promoters has been illegal since January 1st, 2017. You don’t even know what you are talking about.

                    1. *Antibiotic as growth promonents in the US.

                  2. Do you listen to any one except yourself? Has it not occurred to you YET that the WHO is not a good source of information? Here you have a bona fide expert explaining things to you and you just continue to “yeah but” with the same statements over and over.

                    1. ” Has it not occurred to you YET that the WHO is not a good source of information?”

                      Is there anyone who has raised concerns about agriculture’s use of antibiotics that is a good source?

          2. Also, any dairy cow receiving antibiotics milk must be destroyed and all milk is tested for antibiotic residues. It is actually expensive to use antibiotics without cause. Now the use of ionophores us common in feedlots, but ionophores impact ruminal bacteria colonies, which have no impact on humans. They technically aren’t antibiotics either. But they often get classified as such by groups advocating against meat, including the two you quoted from Wikipedia. Also, the use of antibiotics is strongly regulated for any antibiotics considered important to human health.

            1. “Also, the use of antibiotics is strongly regulated for any antibiotics considered important to human health.”

              Are you actually appealing to the competence and honesty of government regulators to defend yourself? Have you no shame?

              1. Keep moving the goal posts.

          3. Look up The Veterinary Feed Directive, and numerous slaughter regulations in regards to antibiotic residues.

            1. “The Veterinary Feed Directive”

              Are you defending these regulations? Wouldn’t you rather see them disappear? Drain the swamp? MAGA even?

              1. Keep moving the goal posts. You stated antibiotic use was a problem but when I pointed out how regulated and how much oversight now you try and state the inspectors are incompetent and libertarians are opposed to regulations. You don’t understand what you are arguing and when pointed out how wrong you are, you then grasp at straws and move the goal posts.

                1. “You stated antibiotic use was a problem but when I pointed out how regulated and how much oversight now you try and state the inspectors are incompetent and libertarians are opposed to regulations. ”

                  It’s not just me that have raised concerns about the use of antibiotics, but many doctors and scientists. They evidently don’t have the faith in the regulators and the regulations you have. They warn of potentially terrible consequences of antibiotics in agriculture.

                  1. No, I have first hand experience and am also a scientist in this actual field. Yes doctors have raised concerns, but some doctors also raise concerns about vaccines, practice holistic medicine etc. They aren’t experts in this field. Now if you can show me actual animal scientist, e.g. the ones that actually study this and know it, that agree with you, you would be more persuasive. As for the regulations, the price for not following them outweighs any price you can get for breaking them. There is no financial incentive to break them. Zero, zilch, nada. If you don’t trust the regulations trust the fact that farmers and ranchers are pretty good at counting pennies.

                    1. “Yes doctors have raised concerns, but some doctors also raise concerns about vaccines, practice holistic medicine etc.”

                      These are different doctors and it’s disingenuous, sophistry. It’s also disingenuous sophistry to claim conflate medical and growth promotion. You write more like an industry flack than a disinterested scientist.

                    2. Antibiotics as growth promonents has been illegal in the US since January 1st, 2017. If you had bothered to look up the Veterinary Feed Directives like I stated earlier you would have known that.

                  2. Also, their main concern is antibiotic resistance. However, more recent research has demonstrates veterinary use of antibiotics (technical name for using antibiotics in livestock) is not a major contributor to resistance. In fact countries that have banned the use of antibiotics in livestock have similar emergence of resistance as countries that haven’t. Additionally, the main culprit is doctors overprescribing antibiotics to humans. Gee, you don’t think those doctors who “worry” don’t have an incentive to lay the blame elsewhere?

                    1. “However, more recent research has demonstrates veterinary use of antibiotics (technical name for using antibiotics in livestock) is not a major contributor to resistance. ”

                      You should read the HSBC report. They are warning of the dangers of resistance. Other doctors and scientists are issuing similar warnings.

                      “In fact countries that have banned the use of antibiotics in livestock have similar emergence of resistance as countries that haven’t.”

                      That’s doesn’t necessarily mean that the use of antibiotics in agriculture is not something to be concerned about. You shouldn’t need me to tell you this.

                      “Gee, you don’t think those doctors who “worry” don’t have an incentive to lay the blame elsewhere?”

                      If it were only doctors who overprescribe to humans, you might have a point. But it isn’t, as you well know. You’re undermining your own argument with your disingenuousness.

                    2. No, you keep referring to a single organization as if they were the final say. You keep talking about growth promonents which have been banned in the US since January 1st, 2017. I referred you to the Veterinary Feed Directives which banned their use as growth promoters but you keep coming back to a use that no longer is allowed. You undermine your argument because of your lack of knowledge on the subject. Which you keep trying to cover with your appeal to authority by claiming the HSBC says. I know what they warn about, I have studied it rather extensively, done reports on it and understand the arguments for and against their viewpoints. However, it is mute, because the VFD that went into effect in 2017 banned the use of antibiotics except for the treatment of illness or to prevent illness. And then they can only be prescribed (if the antibiotic in question is widely used in human health) by a veterinarian. Records must be kept by both the vet and the producer, including why it was prescribed and what dosage it was given at.
                      Who besides doctors (and related medical professionals like NPs and PAs) are over prescribing antibiotics to humans? Do you think farmers are prescribing antibiotics to humans? Veterinarians? Maybe Flo down at the bank? Who exactly do you blame for the over prescribing? Keep grasping at straws every time you offer a counter argument you reveal more of your lack of knowledge on the subject. I mean I even gave you the pertinent law and regulation, which you locked, BTW. This means you’re incapable of admitting you are mistaken.

  3. So, having a shut down due something like a bad flu will have terrible effects on the economy ? Didn’t see that one coming.

  4. How many of these plants close when two or three employees get the “regular” flu?
    Once again, I must point out that this economic disaster is caused not by a flu, but by the fascist reaction to the flu.

  5. Given the depth, breadth, and pace of these pressures, the food system as we know it could unravel quickly. If our food system does implode—and I’m not predicting it will, just that it could—then what might be left in its place?

    Scaremonger much, Mr. Linnekin? Give Readership a collective break. Mindless speculation.

    1. What is a niche journalist supposed to do when the industry you cover is in crisis mode?

      1. Yeah, good point. Still though, it is asinine.

  6. When everyone is dead from China flu, we won’t need as much food anyway.

    1. Maybe Pelosi will share some of her massive supply of ice cream with the survivors. One can dream.

      1. +1 ice dream

  7. Tired of the same old bland and boring

    niche foods, including plant-based meat substitutes, lab-cultured meats, and insect-based protein powders

    ?

    Cheer up,Tonight we’re having pangolin!

  8. “If social distancing guidelines become the norm, for example, workers may no longer be allowed to stand elbow-to-elbow on the line at a meat-processing plant (some of which, such as the Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls, employ thousands of workers).”

    When we say “norm”, are we talking about 1) government imposed regulation, 2) union demands, or 3) social norms?

    I have a hard time buying that social norms will fundamentally change because of this. If we replace all of our restaurant tables with ones that force us to sit more than six feet apart, if we tear the seats out of our baseball stadiums so that we’re all sitting six feet apart, if we redesign all of our airplanes, buses, subways, and trains so that we’re all sitting six feet apart, if we redesign all of our food processing plants so that everyone is sitting six feet apart, . . .

    It’ll make what we did in the aftermath of 9/11 with the Iraq War, the NSA, and the TSA look reasonable and prudent by way of comparison.

    I have a hard time believing that average Americans will demand such absurd and expensive accommodations as a condition of rejoining the workforce or public society–consumers don’t demand that level of stupidity. You have to force feed it to them. You need a government to impose that level of stupidity on consumers and the entrepreneurs who cater to them against their will. Consumers don’t demand unnecessary and expensive stupidity.

    If COVID-19 permanently alters anything, it’ll be entrepreneurs diversifying their supply chains–outside this country–to save themselves from the economic shock of pandemics in the future, like airlines used to go long on oil to hedge themselves against oil shocks. The virus won’t change human nature or whatever impulses make us want to come together and form crowds. We’ve been subjected to worse epidemics than this. If epidemics can have any long term impact on human nature, that happened thousands of years ago–and we’re still forming crowds today.

    1. “and we’re still forming crowds today.”

      Not because of human nature, but because of agriculture, which requires higher inputs of human energy than the hunter/foraging that preceded. These more primitive societies were much less densely populated than those that followed. You should read Smil’s Energy and CIvilization before you subject us to more of your meditations on human nature.

      1. Agriculture causes parties and rock concerts .

        1. It’s called civilization. You’ve not read the book either, I can see.

          1. He clearly doesn’t understand that parties and rock concerts are civilization.

            And if we have to give up on civilization to save even one life, don’t we have to try?

            1. “He clearly doesn’t understand that parties and rock concerts are civilization.”

              He also doesn’t understand that humans don’t crowd themselves into dirty, confined spaces because of ‘human nature.’

              That book evidently doesn’t appeal to you, so here’s some other recommendations. Fiction: Mann’s Magic Mountain. It’s about illness and time. Has a bearing on the issues of today. A really excellent book. Non fiction: The Swerve: How the World Became Modern. This is all about the rediscovery of Lucretius’ great poem at the dawn of the Renaissance. It might be a little too intellectual for most here. They all might be.

              1. Oh, they are fairly dim witted and unsophisticated.

                I would also recommend the Communist Manifesto, which clearly lays out the exploitative nature of capitalism. Did you know that Karl Marx invented “capitalism”?

                But they haven’t even read that fundamental work. Philistines, all of them.

                1. I could never get into Marx, or Engels, not that I tried very much. I read much more of Freud, a much more engaging author.

                  1. I doubt you could get into anything more challenging then Dr. Seuss.

          2. “the book”

            Oho a SINGLE BOOK!

      2. Ramblin’ gambolin’ man !

    2. Cuomo thinks that long-term humans won’t shake hands anymore. If the Black Plague didn’t stop hand-shaking then I don’t think this virus will either.
      I think we will see social-distancing in the short term and by next year we will be back to normal. Thankfully

  9. MOAR PANIC!!!

  10. President Trump is supporting the protests against the lock-downs.

    Is there any other way to interpret this?

    LIBERATE MICHIGAN!

    https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1251169217531056130

    1. In all the coverage of President Trump insisting that he, rather than the governors, have the right to set the lock-down policy, I don’t think it’s been adequately communicated that he appears to be trying to lift the lock-downs rather than impose them.

      Just for the record, trying to lift the lock-downs on unwilling states is probably superior to trying to impose them on unwilling states–even if doing either one to the states unwillingly is wrong. After all, people who wish to isolate themselves are still free to do so even if others are free to open their businesses and go to work.

      Meanwhile, unless you assume that President Trump wants to lock the whole country down, I don’t see anything incoherent about him claiming that he has the authority both to make the call on lock-downs nationally and him wanting to stop the lock-downs. Love or hate the way the Supreme Court has interpreted the commerce clause, the fact is that the president and the departments that answer to him have been given broad authority over anything that impacts interstate commerce, including activities that are much more trivial than a statewide lock-down. Seek Wickard vs. Filburn.

      If anything has been incoherent, it’s the press narrative. On the one hand, they wanted to criticize President Trump for not having a national policy (by which they meant that he hasn’t imposed Cuomo’s lock-down orders for New York nationwide), and on the other hand, they criticized President Trump for claiming he had the authority to lock-down states over their objections.

      It’s almost as bad as seeing them criticize President Trump for the travel ban from Europe and then criticizing him for not imposing lock-downs on the American people a short time later.

      1. It’s no longer about controlling a disease, if it ever was.

  11. Good job governors. Shut down your economies, now shut down food producers. The 99% of the population that does not know how to hunt or grow their own food will thank you with the biggest ass kicking in 2020.

    Fatality rate from this virus is now below 0.2%. As we stated many times on these comment boards, this is no worse than seasonal flu.

  12. “That means dumping tariffs and removing recent immigration restrictions…”

    What a load of TDS. True lovers of liberty support restricting immigration and punishing consumers of imported goods. Like true economists they understand that we must be self sufficient. Comparative advantage is a bunch of crap. Heck, all basic fundamentals of economics are a bunch of crap because they are simple and the world is complicated. Jeez. This magazine is nothing but leftist drivel.

    Did I get that right?

    1. He says, mindlessly chanting the “comparative advantage” mantra others have thought out for him, unable to think anything for himself.
      Now please keep bitching about people criticizing Reason, even as Reason advocates totalitarian lockdowns and technocratic supremacy.
      You become more pathetic daily

      1. Look, I’m just trying to be cool like you by framing everything Reason says as hatred of Trump, and by forgetting everything I’ve ever learned about economics or libertarian thought.

        1. “forgetting everything I’ve ever learned about economics or libertarian thought.”

          That shouldn’t take you long.

      2. And you’re totally right that other people thought out things like comparative advantage for me. All I did was read books that other people wrote. I must be a complete moron for learning those things from others instead of thinking up the entire dismal science all by myself.

        1. Those two comments perfectly encapsulate your intellectual shortcomings.
          The lack of talent for insightful analysis, and the emotional attachment to authority abstracts

          1. I wish I was a genius like you who has never read a book or learned anything from anyone, and who was born with all the knowledge and understanding of everything. Then I would be totally cool and hate Reason and love Trump like you.

            1. Another example

              1. Another example of what shitface? That you cannot come up with a cogent explanation of Reason’s or your own hatred of Trump?

                I await your response faggot, because I feel it will involve nothing more than a post involving “non sequiturs”. And we covered that with your other sock in which you advocated your own breast feeding at age 40.

                1. Um, what happened there?

                  1. Lol
                    The joys of threading

  13. Is it finally time for irradiated food?
    “The FDA has approved a variety of foods for irradiation in the United States …”
    https://www.fda.gov/food/buy-store-serve-safe-food/food-irradiation-what-you-need-know

    1. Corona-free pangolin !

  14. No mention of the PRIME act that Massie has been pushing, or the Wholesome meat act that caused this mess? https://tomwoods.com/ep-656-how-the-wholesome-meat-act-gives-us-less-wholesome-meat/

  15. Evidence suggests people will not be turning to plant based proteins. In fact sales of these products and plant based “dairy” have fallen despite milk and meat shortages and increasing dairy and meat prices.

  16. As a small rancher whose business model is based on direct sales, this would be good news for me. But that isn’t realistic for the society as a whole. Society as a whole will continue to rely on industrialized, mass food production. There is no other way for 5% of the population to feed the other 95%. And I highly doubt to many people from NYC or LA are going to take up farming any time soon.

    1. Arguably, without government subsidies and illegal immigrant labor, we’d be in an even worse position because an industry with a low profit/input ratio like agriculture would be largely priced out of the American labor market. Only crops which can be tended to on minimal labor using highly efficient capital, like cereals and corn, would remain in this country. Most fruits, vegetables, citrus, honey, as well as labor-intensive steps like meat processing, would end up in Mexico or somewhere.

      1. Before this happened we were already seeing some processing being offshores. Tyson was having a lot of pork ship to and then slaughtered in China and then shipped back to the US. Poultry was also seeing a similar trend. There was real questions about the safety of this practice (as US slaughter and packing houses are very heavily regulated and inspected). Packing may offshore, to a degree, although I don’t think it would completely due to consumer worries about food safety.

      2. Arguably, without government subsidies and illegal immigrant labor, we’d be in an even worse position because an industry with a low profit/input ratio like agriculture would be largely priced out of the American labor market.

        No, agriculture in the US would just do what it has done in other countries, namely modernize and automate.

        Subsidies and cheap labor are a crutch that is holding US agriculture back and is impoverishing the country as a whole.

        1. The US is the most modernized and mechanized agriculture in the world. Sorry, but that statement just belies the reality of the situation.

  17. Reason really needs to hire someone who actually understands agriculture because this and Bailey’s article yesterday demonstrates their complete misunderstanding of the industry and the challenges that their solutions would actually entail. Yes, by all means let’s make it easier for people to buy directly from the farmer/rancher, but that will not be the solution they think it will. Maybe of we went back to 50% of the population practicing agriculture at a smaller scale we could support the country by direct sales, but the reality of 5% of the country feeding 95% of the country pretty much eliminates this as a solution. Additionally, their preoccupation with plant based and lab grown meat is pollyannish. Lab grown meat has never been scaled up and plant based meat alternatives makes up less than 3% of the market currently. While some studies (highly criticized and with questionable at best data – their estimation of how much is currently being sold doesn’t come close to real world market data) suggest these sources could make up 40-60% of protein intake in the next decades, several other studies using actual market data suggest at best they could maybe break double digits, like 10%. Several food companies did invest heavily at first but they appear now to be pulling back. Despite a large spike after initial offering, impossible meat’s stock sales have returned to initial offering prices, because sales have been much more sluggish than they forecasted. It is the same story as the organic industry, which hypes their rate of growth (double digits growth every year) but forget to mention that their sales rarely have ever exceeded 5-10% of sales and are not forecasted to anytime soon. Plant based alternatives and organic are actually seeing sales decline because they are luxury items and people don’t buy luxury items during economic downturns.

    1. Not to mention that the fake meats are just lousy with sex hormone mimetics, and at frighteningly high levels. People freak over a little bST in their milk, and they’re going to gladly consume phytoestrogens at levels actually high enough to have biological effects?

      1. Not to mention BSTis in milk to begin with, and humans lack the receptor for BST. I absolutely love idiots who actually think hormone free milk/meat exist (or for that matter hormone free vegetables as you point out).

    2. Additionally, their preoccupation with plant based and lab grown meat is pollyannish.

      Maybe this was your intent, but the fantasy is anti-thetic and/or oxymoronic as well. There won’t be 50% of the population growing meat in bioreactors for the other 50% of the population. If you think farming is hard, try it in vitro, four-legged bioreactors largely tend themselves. It will be less than 5% growing meat in vats (or in fields) for the more than 95%.

      It’s like Reason saw Soylent Green and came away thinking “Except for the last 20 min., the whole eating people thing, the future looks pretty good!”

  18. “are actually seeing sales decline because they are luxury items and people don’t buy luxury items during economic downturns”

    Perhaps they are planting their own organic products in their own gardens. The economic incentives are there and successful gardening is a reward in itself, irrespective of questions of money.

    1. How can you do that when you can’t buy seeds?

      1. There are very few states where you can’t buy seeds. None if you count mail order.

    2. Yes, people living in high rise apartments in New York are growing their own gardens. You don’t know what you are talking about and so you grasp at straws. Also, for a good portion of the US gardening season hasn’t started or is just getting started. Even if they were planting their own gardens they haven’t had a chance to harvest anything yet, so therefore they still need to eat. And since sales of organic are dropping it would indicate that people who need to eat today aren’t buying it.

      1. “Yes, people living in high rise apartments in New York are growing their own gardens. ”

        And why shouldn’t they? What good is a second home in the country if you can’t plant a garden there?

        ” who need to eat today aren’t buying it.”

        Odd, isn’t it, that these wealthy New York Dilettantes haven’t figured out how to use a freezer.

        1. Keep grasping at straws there. The data doesn’t support a single one of your assertions, nor does simple logic but keep grasping.

          1. It’s like he’s retarded. I’d chalk it up to naive youthful optimism, but he’s been this way for quite some time and doesn’t seem to learn anything… ever.

        2. Also, how many people in NYC actually own second home. As for freezing vegetables, you still have to harvest them first. The fact is that organic sales are down. That means people are buying less of then right now. They haven’t had time to raise their own, and unless they were growing them last season, they would have to be purchasing them right now if they wanted them. There is no argument you can make that goes around these facts.

          1. “Also, how many people in NYC actually own second home.”

            A lot. Donald Trump has several.

            “The fact is that organic sales are down.”

            Perhaps people are growing instead of buying. That’s where the incentives lie.

            Also, vegetables can be frozen and eaten later.

            them

            as in less them now.

            1. There is no evidence to support the idea they were growing them before this started in any appreciable numbers.
              A lot? As a percentage what is a lot? This is a fairly stupid statement on your part.

              1. A stupid statement? I was trying to reply in kind. The whole irony thing.

                1. No, you haven’t made a rationale argument yet. Instead you try for irony but miss the mark by sounding imbecilic and sophomoric. Which pretty much sums up any of your posts. You keep insisting on arguing a point long after you have been proven wrong. You argue straw men, shift the goal posts and grasp at straws. You make appeals to authority and then continue to keep referring to those authorities long after people have demonstrates why they are not true authorities. Just upthread I actually stated the law that bans the use of antibiotics as growth promoters. I stated the use of antibiotics is extremely regulated. Yet, despite my advise that you look up the Veterinary Feed Directives, you make a fool of yourself by trying to ridicule me for speaking about medicinal use of antibiotics. Did it enter your thought process that a practicing rancher and animal science professor didn’t speak about antibiotics as growth promoters but only spoke of their medicinal use? Especially after he specifically told you to look up the pertinent regulations? Maybe that should have clued you in that there was a reason he wasn’t mentioning growth promoters, specifically because it is a moot point being as their use is banned in the US. But no, you kept on blithely arguing despite the fact that you obvious didn’t know what you were talking about.

                  1. “No, you haven’t made a rationale argument yet.”

                    I was speculating that America’s organic consumers might be growing their own food in the face of high prices. You dismissed the idea because New York’s apartment dwellers didn’t have the space to do so. Moronic.

            2. “How many people in NYC actually own second home”
              Damned few, most do not even own a car.

              “The fact is that organic sales are down”
              Because it is expensive and if they are starting a garden, they probably are using commercial fertilizer since manure is in short supply in cities.

            3. A lot. Donald Trump has several.

              “I can name a famous guy who has a few homes, or at least a few homes among his or his companies holdings, so most New Yorkers probably own 2 homes; one urban and one at least semi-rural.”

              God is this dumb. Statistically, scientifically, factually, socially, politically… there’s really not any facet where it’s not just stupid.

              1. “there’s really not any facet where it’s not just stupid.”

                That includes your stupid response.

    3. Perhaps they are planting their own organic products in their own gardens.

      Unless they live in Michigan, of course.

    4. Gardening is not something you just do out of the blue , and the typical urban or suburban American has little experience growing anything. Maybe they can get lucky with a couple of potted tomato plants, zucini or some string beans, but realistically most of us simply do not have the skill to make any significant dent in the shortage that could be looming.

      I’m not saying don’t try, but realize it can take several years and much persistence to get to the point where you can count on even a couple of nights each week having something you grew.

      1. “and the typical urban or suburban American”

        We are not talking about typical Americans. We are talking about consumers of organic produce who are anything but typical. They are wealthy New York apartment dwellers who hire illegal, uneducated Latin Americans to do their gardening for them on their extensive second and third homes.

  19. At least 30 grocery workers across the country have died from COVID-19, too.

    FTA – “UFCW 21 represents 20,000 grocery workers in the state of Washington”

    So if all 30 of those deaths happened in WA (they didn’t), that’s a mortality rate of 0.15% How many grocery workers are there nationwide?

    Time to open things up.

  20. Farmers and processing plants have begun making difficult decisions to kill millions of healthy, perfectly edible animals instead of selling them for food

    I think I see where the meat shortages are coming from.

    After dumping milk, etc. my sympathy for farmers is zilch.

    1. They aren’t dumping milk because they want to. They are dumping because the creameries are maxed out and they have no place to sell the milk. It is costing farmers millions to dump their milk. The same with meat producers. The fact is that fresh milk can’t be stored. And most of the destroying of meat animals is actually been poultry farmers addling eggs so they don’t hatch, because they have no place to ship the mature chickens they already have.

      1. Consumer creameries that sell to retail. The creameries that sell to restaurants and schools, which make up a substantial percentage of dairy sales, are mostly idle and unable to produce products in the size or shape that consumers want or can use.
        We are seeing similar with high cost cuts of meat. The cost of beef loins has dropped $200 a hundred weight over the past two weeks. This is cut of meat that prime rib and ribeyes and t-bones come from. As I pointed out above, demand for hamburger has grown to such a degree that processors are now grinding the chuck and rounds, rather than processing them into more expensive roasts and steaks. It isn’t the farmers and ranchers making these decisions. They are losing money but they have little choice.

      2. Not sure I buy that.

        If it were once in a blue moon, I could see a miscalculation of capacity, but the dumping of milk has been on-going. Certainly that would be a signal for more creameries so a few more people could get a slice of that millions. And especially as the dairy section has gotten billions in subsidies, that is literally pissing away production as well as tax dollars.

        Or, you would think farmers would try and find different processors or market, but that hasn’t happened either. All that milk could possibly be frozen or dried, or even just given away.

        Nope, the most logical thing is to dump it.

        1. The problem is that thanks to regulations the number of creameries has dropped dramatically. Farmers have few choices to switch to. And all but a few small local creameries (which are already at capacity) are ordering milk destruction. The farmers lose money (even with subsidies and insurance) when they destroy milk. They get back cents on the dollar. A number of dairies have already had to declare bankruptcy and far more are likely too because of the milk destruction.
          Additionally, most farmers contract their milk delivery with a certain creamery (generally there is only one or two close enough to make it pay to sell to them) and if they sold to another creamery (even if they can find one that is taking delivery) they’d be breaking contract.

          1. Further, I read (here perhaps?) that milk (in any form) destined for restaurant use is typically run through a completely parallel set of processing plants. So, even if people now want the milk products at home, the plants that would normally handle a large portion of it are set up for bulk, rather than family sized, packaging and conversion is not easy or cheap. So the milk becomes hazardous waste.

  21. last month I earned $10000 ultimate month by using operating online only for 3 to 5 hours on my computer and this was so smooth that i personally couldn’t accept as true with before working on this WEB CHK DETAILS JUST………..OPEN SITE

  22. Can’t they just hire more illegals? They are exempt from workplace regulations, aren’t they? /sarc

  23. With regards to hunting, if Taxachusetts would lighten up on some of the hunting regs, I can think of one particular buck whom I’d like to transform from a regular marauder in my garden into a heap of frozen meat in my freezer. Just sayin….

  24. “Sioux Falls” South Dakota.

    “Sioux City” is in Iowa.

    “North Sioux City” is also in South Dakota, but there is no Smithfield plant there.

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